Of Methods and Movements
“Are you the house church people?” and “Are you part of the simple church movement?” are both questions I’ve fielded often over the past decade. My honest and sincere question to both these questions is: no.
Yes, I’m fully persuaded that the best means for spiritual growth and mission—the God-designed means, in my opinion—is a spiritual family where faith is a lifestyle that revolves around our dwelling places and work spaces, rather than a schedule of meetings or programs. And yes, I certainly hope we’re cooperating with the moving of the Spirit in our day (even as I acknowledge that this is not the only avenue in which He is moving today).
Following Jesus unquestionably involves movement. As the Master said, “Follow Me, and I will make you…” (Mark 1:17). Our job is to follow; His job is to make something out of our Christ-centred lives and Christ-filled communities. (When we assume God’s job, we default on ours; we stop following and start settling).
Methods and Movements
However, if we align ourselves with a particular method of “doing church,” and classify ourselves as a specific “movement” per se, we’re in danger again of championing “our thing,” of defining too tightly the untamed mysteries of God, of concocting a “who’s in and who’s out” list, and sometimes, even contriving a “what works” formula … in a nutshell, we set up camp around one truth—which we ultimately end up having to defend.
Like movements before us—who were also fully persuaded that they were true to Biblical revelation and on the cutting edge of what God was doing in their day—we too can become entrenched in a one-dimensional understanding of God’s unfolding truth, and miss the manifold, multi-dimensional wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). As one man quipped, movements oft become monuments, and ultimately, mortuaries.
Yes, movements that were once free-flowing eventually crystallize into restrictive forms and structures—the river of life stagnates into swamps and marshes. Then the cycle is repeated: some brave pioneers, at risk to life and limb, have to break free from the shackles of another dead (and controlling) movement, and we miss another generation that’s able to usher in the Kingdom. Pioneers, in such cases, spend their energies breaking out from man-made structures, never truly breaking into our full God-given inheritance.
In my opinion, our identity is found in nothing less than the King and His Kingdom come. Our only safeguard against settling for false finish-lines lies in being aligned to Christ Jesus, taking our cues from Him, and defining our purpose around His Kingdom mandate.
Some will no doubt contend that, while this is both foundational and obvious, it’s too easy to pay lip service to such a creed. Doesn’t everyone claim they’re consistent with the Kingdom?
I agree that it’s terribly convenient to use Kingdom terminology without embracing the way of the King. So, along with our resolve to align with the King and His Kingdom, I think it’s important to identify the Kingdom values He is highlighting today. I for one have had my fill of methods and movements; I’m trying to discern and treasure the values of the Kingdom. As Tony Fitzgerald regularly reminds us, “Methods are many, values are few; methods change often, values never do.”
Values are like the riverbanks that support a flowing river, and here are a few Kingdom values that I think are pertinent today.
1.) The Presidency of Christ
Abiding in the Presence of Christ in our midst, resting in the Father-heart of God, is a profoundly spiritual and deeply practical way of life. From this place of rest, we all learn to participate, to discern and to respond to His prompting in our individual and communal lives.
2.) The Priority of Mission
Defining what we do from the heartbeat of Jesus, allowing the mission of Christ in the world to be our framing reference. From this place of perspective, we learn to support each other in His mission to our world—wherever this plays out, in our neighbourhood, a niche of society, or even other nations.
3.) The Primacy of Relationships
Recognising those whom God joins our heart to, whether it’s for a season or a lifetime, and intentionally walking the way of love together. From this place of safety, we learn to serve each other sacrificially and selflessly, knowing we neither own one other nor do we owe each other—except to love (Romans 13:8). Slaying both a spirit of obligation and entitlement, we release each other into new seasons or new adventures as the Lord leads.
4.) The Process of Discipleship
Grasping the dominion call as we learn to govern our own lives in submission to Christ, and learn to govern together over the issues of this life—including the collective sphere of influence God entrusts to us as a self-governing community. From this place of growth, everyone is released into their Kingdom destiny, and a decentralised multiplication of missional life is not just possible, but expected.
5.) The Place of Leadership
Taming our default reactions to and fears of leadership, we freshly engage with the importance of servant-leadership in the context of the family of God. From this place of empowering, we respect mature spiritual parenthood and support gift-led initiatives.
Of course there are many other Kingdom values, and each one listed above could be amplified on (follow the links for more), but this is where I’m at, the issues I’m fussing with. The critical issue for me is this: God is calling us to unearth ancient values, not merely construct modern methods 1. And as we live consistent with the values He’s revealing, the river of life keeps flowing.
Could we be the generation that refuses to settle for mere methods and movements, who instead, proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel of the Kingdom—ushering in the will of God on earth, as it is in heaven?
A generation of “nobodies”—loving and living and learning in spiritual families—who care not for methodology, or formulae, or movements, but who care only for the Kingdom of God, taking their cues personally and collectively from the King.
Sign me up!
1 Yes, helpful methods can flow out of our values, and if we’re intentionally seeking to apply our values, this will no doubt happen. However, methods imported into our situation because they “work elsewhere” seldom produce fruit, and sadly muddy our discovery of the values themselves.
One of the limitations of “movements” per se is that ‘members of the movement’ (whether this is officially stated or not) attempt to copy-paste the movement’s trendy distinctives on to their unique situation. The result is often pressure, performance and disappointment … not “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”—the hallmark of the Kingdom (Romans 14:17).
Even methods born in the application of our values must be kept secondary and subservient, or else we’ll again misplace our dependencies.